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Friendships & Peer Pressure

It's all about friends

As children enter the pre-teen and teen years and begin to develop their own unique identities, they start to listen more to the opinions of their friends and classmates than their parents. The influence of peers can be both positive and negative, and teens will be more likely to take the advice of their friends over that offered by their parents. However, your child actually needs you more than you think. By keeping the lines of communication with your child open and knowing what to look out for, you can set the stage for a successful journey through the adolescence.

Helping your child develop healthy friendships

Recognize peer pressure. When friends try to persuade your child into doing something or acting a certain way, this can be defined as peer pressure. When we hear the term peer pressure we automatically think of it in a negative way. However, peer pressure can be positive as well, such as when your child’s friends encourage her to try an after school activity that they are involved in. It is important for your child to socialize and have strong friendships. You should be concerned, however, when your child is persuaded to do something that both you and he are uncomfortable with. This can range from ganging up on another friend to cheating to trying drugs or alcohol.

Talk through tough situations. Let your teen know your feelings on social situations where parents aren’t present, using drugs/alcohol, and being alone with a boy/girlfriend. Take her input in setting boundaries and expectations, and also consequences for breaking the rules. Talk through a situation where your teen might face peer pressure and decide together what she will do. Encourage your child to think critically about situations. For example, when faced with the peer pressure of drinking at a party, your teen could a) try the alcohol; b) not drink and ignore the fact that her friends are doing it; c) try to convince her friends that underage drinking is wrong; or d) call you to come get her. Practice how she might respond in this situation, such as by saying “No thanks, I don’t want any” or “Sorry I can’t, I’ve got to meet my mom.”

Get to know your child's friends. Invite them over, and introduce yourself to their parents. Your teen should feel comfortable bringing home friends, and you should be comfortable letting him go to his friend’s homes. If your teen seeks advice from his friends before he asks you, do not be offended. It is normal for teens to rely on friends for advice, especially on social matters. Don't try to prevent your teen from listening to friends. Instead, encourage him to talk about the advice he received from friends before following it and think critically about the pros and cons. Take an interest your teen’s activities, as well, to help you monitor his behavior and show that you care about his friends and interests. Help your teen identify peers and friends with similar values. Having strong, positive friendships and allies will help him in intimidating situations.

Keep the lines of communication open. Let your teen know that she can always talk to you. Talk with and listen carefully to your teen. This shows that you respect her and it will encourage her to listen to you and respect your opinion. Be proactive and initiate conversation with your teen as she may not open up to you without some prompting. Ask your teen her views about music, politics, news stories, and education. Having this kind of positive relationship with your teen will also help her self-esteem and social skills. If and when you have concerns about your teen’s behaviors or choices, talk to her.

Be a good role model. As a parent, you are the most powerful example in your child’s life. He sees how you interact with your friends and acquaintances, so try to model positive relationships. For example, if you talk in a negative way about one friend with another or are rude to someone at the grocery store, your teen may consciously or unconsciously act this way in his own interactions with friends and peers. Remember that even when you don’t think your child is listening or watching, he probably is!

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